Understanding Danish work culture



Should companies spend time and investment on a well-structured onboarding process? The simple answer is yes, there are many good reasons why this is worthwhile and many benefits for both the employer and the employee.


Photographs: Unsplash

Text: Jane Elgård Petersen


If the onboarding process is not done professionally and especially well-structured, it can cost a lot (we are talking six-digit figures). This can lead to a newly hired, well-qualified employee stopping within six months. Even more worrying is that research shows that 4% of newly hired staff resign only after one day. These and other reasons stress the importance of a well-structured onboarding process.


In Denmark, we are all familiar with the expression frihed under ansvar (freedom with responsibility), but many internationals are unfamiliar with this in a work environment. For example, a manager asks an international employee to come up with new ideas and changes to procedures whilst completing a task. The employee completes the task in the required time frame without implementing new ideas or procedures. When the manager tries to explain further that they want their ideas, the employee seems confused. To many internationals, it is so ingrained in their work culture that they are expected to do what is required of the job and nothing more. In Denmark, we expect a high level of independence in our jobs – the most important thing is that we complete the job and reach the goal within the time frame. Working in the flat Danish framework is often seen as a considerable challenge to many international employees, as in their own countries, organisations have more management and control of the employee's daily work.


The new employee must be introduced to the vision and business culture of the organisation. This is so important as they will have a much better understanding of how the company works so that they can do the best possible job, know the expectations from management, what the employee can expect from the management, and not least, be a great ambassador for the company.


"Another idea to help a new colleague meet others is to invite them to sit with your colleagues for lunch in the canteen. It's a great way to practise Danish – and Danes are honoured when internationals try to add Danish to their conversations."


A buddy arrangement could be an excellent solution to eliminate challenges in the initial stages. The new employee will get a professional and an individual introduction to the job and additional social benefits. Firstly, a specific introduction to the tasks and to support further understanding of how Danish company culture works. Secondly, there is a social element to becoming friends with a Dane and visa versa – both employees benefit!


The same colleague won't necessarily perform both functions - it is recommendable for two different colleagues. One is the buddy supporting the employee who has a high knowledge of the tasks and is qualified to support the candidate initially. The social buddy is responsible for introducing social activities and may not necessarily be from the same department. It could be a male or female colleague with similar interests who may live in the same area and who can make them feel welcome.


Another idea to help a new colleague meet others is to invite them to sit with your colleagues for lunch in the canteen. It's a great way to practise Danish – and Danes are honoured when internationals try to add Danish to their conversations. Also, work is the fastest way to pick up Danish, and your colleagues will support you if you ask them. Furthermore, your network will automatically grow. Maybe you will meet a new colleague with similar interests, enjoy similar sports activities, or your children may attend the same school. The point is - never be shy to network and get to know people – this will help you become a part of Danish society.


Sources: Onboarding-guiden: learningbank

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